By Ryan Maquiñana
Over the last month, Andre “The Beast” Berto learned a lot about himself in his new training headquarters of San Carlos, Calif.
Besides testing his physical limits with Victor Conte and sprint coach Remi Korchemny, or going over the gameplan for his Sept. 3 opponent, IBF welterweight Jan Zaveck, he came across another revelation.
“I did a lot of blood testing, and I found out I was anemic the last two years,” he said after sparring yesterday at the Undisputed Gym. “Without enough iron in my body carrying the red blood cells and oxygen to your muscles, you get fatigued, and now that I know that, I know what we got to work on to make sure I’m 100 percent.”
After going eight rounds with tall junior middleweight Paul Mendez of nearby Walnut Creek and Jonathan Garcia, a junior welterweight who drove up the coast from Watsonville, the former WBC 147-pound champ reflected on how it’s affected his outlook.
“My dad always just taught me to work hard, and you’ll achieve what you got to achieve. Before I would just beat guys on raw talent, but now I’ve learned a lot and I’m more scientific about the way I approach things,” he said.
So far, he insists that the workouts at Undisputed and the College of San Mateo along with his hypoxic high-altitude training and supplements he receives at Conte’s SNAC offices have resulted in a major difference in certain areas.
“Definitely the endurance,” Berto said. “I had trouble with that in the past. Like I said, I found out I was anemic, and we’ve been working on that. I feel stronger. I feel my body recovering faster.”
“He’s handling the workouts significantly easier with far less metabolic disturbance,” Conte added. “Two days ago, he went eight rounds. Rounds seven and eight, he looked spectacular...He’s been here since the 14th of July, so he’s been here for about a month now…I see a lot of improvement as far as his confidence.”
One can talk heart rates or recovery or energy levels, but the only thing that ultimately counts is the result in the ring on Sept. 3. During his sparring session, it was noticeable that Berto’s power and speed remained, when he threw flashy flurries or unleashed a monstrous counter left hand that seemed like a 45-degree hybrid between a hook and an uppercut.
“I spar with 22-ounce gloves,” Berto said, in comparison with the standard 16-ouncers sported by Mendez and Garcia. “I like that edge. I really try to work for mine, so I wear these 22-ounce gloves, but as you can see, the speed is still there…the timing’s getting there, and I’ll be ready to go come fight time.”
Perhaps the quote of the month came from BoxingScene’s recent interview with Zaveck when he declared that he’s coming to Biloxi, Miss., on Sept. 3 because hiding a belt in Europe would not be moral. Berto commented on the line:
“Yeah, that’s good. I respect him on that aspect,” he said, nodding his head. “They (Europeans) know they have to come here to the States to really get that recognition and get that praise as a real world champion…so I expect him to come over this way and defend that title.”
So far, Berto’s trainer, Tony Morgan, has studied Zaveck’s tendencies from his hotel room, and touched briefly on the Slovenian’s style.
“I take my hat off to the guy,” Morgan said. “I watched tape on him. He’s a talented kid. He’s got a good right hand. He puts punches together good, but I think the speed of the American style will give him trouble. Then again, you have guys like Ricky Hatton who come up here and prevail to a certain point. We’re not taking him lightly at all, and may the best man win.”
Berto, who is currently walking around 156 pounds by his estimate, was a little more descriptive.
“When I first heard about Zaveck,” Berto said, “I heard that he was a tremendous pressure, pressure, pressure fighter. And then I’d watch his tapes, and he kind of was the opposite. He’ll try to press a little bit, but then he tries to jump back all of a sudden and start boxing. A lot of his opponents are flat-footed and walk toward him, but this fight will be a little different. We’ll see how he deals with that, but I think it’s going to be a good fight, and I’m ready to go 12 rounds hard.”
Ryan Maquiñana is the boxing correspondent at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. He’s a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and The Ring’s Ratings Advisory Panel. E-mail him at [email protected], check out his blog at www.maqdown.com or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.